Newark & Detroit: 1967

September 2015


In the early months of 1967, Newark City planners were designing a series of superhighways that stretched throughout Newark and threatened to bisect the predominantly black neighborhoods. The city council also proposed to clear out one hundred and fifty acres of land to build College Hospital, a medical school and teaching complex. 

This looked to a lot of people like a deliberate plan to drive out the minorities, since it would involve the demolition of numerous homes in Central Ward, displacing many of the lower income families with no means of relocating anywhere else. 

Excerpt from The House Where Charlie Lived by Clint Miller Jr. 


Harry Benson

Harry Benson

 

Tensions were building.

 


It was a hot summer night in July 1967, and steam was rising off of the streets of the Central Ward. Newark residents, black and white, stood on the sidewalks in front of their homes looking for relief from the heat. The only solace from the weather was the shelter of one’s car where the breeze could flow gently through the open windows as one drove down the street.

Excerpt from Silent No Longer: Voices from the 1967 Newark Race Riots by Kimberly Siegal


Associated Press

Associated Press


On this particular evening, Wednesday July 12th, John Smith spent his time riding around in his yellow taxi cab, which he rented for $16.50 a day. Smith – a Georgia native – had only been driving a cab for a little over three years. He was originally a trumpet player living in the South until he damaged his two front teeth playing at a gig. He needed to find a job to pay for his dental work, so he decided to move north. Smith found a position with a local taxi company, immediately jumped on the opportunity, and rented himself a one­bedroom apartment in Newark’s Ironbound District. 

As a cabdriver, the Newark Police Department found John Smith “to be a hazard.”He had been in eight accidents the week of July 10th alone, and recently had his license revoked; however, Smith was extremely low on funds and continued to transport passengers despite losing his driving privileges.Tonight the taxi business was especially slow. No one was flagging down Smith’s cab, so he circled the Central Ward hoping to find a passenger. At about 9:15 PM Smith spotted a middle­aged woman looking for a cab and he eagerly stopped to offer her a ride. Then after only a few minutes of driving his passenger, Smith came across a parked police car at the intersection of Seventh Street and Fifteenth Avenue. He pondered whether to pass the car. He recalls the situation: 

Excerpt from Silent No Longer: Voices from the 1967 Newark Race Riots by Kimberly Siegal


Bettmann Corbis

Bettmann Corbis


"I can still remember very clearly what happened that night."

Excerpt from Silent No Longer: Voices from the 1967 Newark Race Riots by Kimberly Siegal


Bettmann Corbis

Bettmann Corbis

From the files of The Star Ledger

From the files of The Star Ledger


I had a lady passenger and came up behind this police interceptor which was double­parked at this intersection. I blinked my lights from low to high beam and cut around like I always do. Well, they signaled me to stop by tapping their horn...They said I had popped the intersection, that I had run through without having the right of way. 

Officers Pontrelli and DeSimone, who pulled Smith over, immediately discovered that the cabdriver had a revoked license. They place Smith under arrest, beating him in the process. Men like Smith were arrested every day in Newark, so what made this man’s arrest any different from all the other African Americans brought to the Fourth Precinct?

Excerpt from Silent No Longer: Voices from the 1967 Newark Race Riots by Kimberly Siegal


Associated Press

Associated Press

Associated Press

Associated Press

Associated Press

Associated Press


 

 

The answer to this question is that as the officers dragged the bloody, beaten body of John Smith up the precinct stairs, hundreds of Hayes Homes residents – located directly across the street from the precinct – saw his body carried into the building. Not only was “Smith’s arrival at the station house...seen by scores of Negro residents of the red brick Hayes homes... [but] by cab drivers as well.

Out over the cabbies’ cracking VHP radio band went the rumor that white cops had killed a Negro driver.”Rumors of Smith’s death immediately spread throughout the city. Shortly after, fifteen cab drivers formed a line in front of the Fourth Precinct shouting out protests of police brutality. 

Excerpt from Silent No Longer: Voices from the 1967 Newark Race Riots by Kimberly Siegal

Bettmann Corbis

Bettmann Corbis


From the files of The Star Ledger

From the files of The Star Ledger

Associated Press

Associated Press


Over the next six days, the city of Newark endured one of the most violent race riots in United States history.


Bettmann Corbis

Bettmann Corbis

Associated Press

Associated Press

Associated Press

Associated Press


African American residents had suffered enough. Their public housing residences were falling apart. Their healthcare system was obsolete. Their educational facilities were inadequate, and most of all, their civil rights, their protection under the United States Constitution, was nowhere to be found.

And by July 18th when the riots were over, twenty-six people were dead, 1,055 businesses had suffered, twenty-nine residences were destroyed, and monetary damages totaled as high as $10,434,425.09. Still, Smith believes he "didn't start a riot." He says, "I was just a victim of circumstances. It could have happened to anybody." 

Excerpt from Silent No Longer: Voices from the 1967 Newark Race Riots by Kimberly Siegal


From the files of the Star Ledger

From the files of the Star Ledger


Bettmann Corbis

Bettmann Corbis

 

 

Community leaders demanded to see him and when they were granted access, they discovered he needed immediate medical attention. Smith was sent to the hospital for treatment for a skull injury and broken ribs.  By 7 p.m. the next day, Smith was released to his lawyer but the damage was done. Word on the street was that Smith had been fatally beaten.

Over the next 24 hours, the Newark Police Department tried to keep a lid on a very dynamic situation. Cab drivers were mobilized to protest the treatment of their colleague, community members were protesting police brutality, and street conditions were deteriorating.

Excerpt from Who What Why: Foggy Memories Obscure Forebears of Ferguson Unrest


A hail of bullets rained down on the citizens of Newark from rooftops, from patrol cars, and from local police and National Guard troops on foot. They opened fire on the very community they swore to protect and serve. Many of those killed were believed to have been looters. Such was the case of James Rutledge, Jr., a nineteen year-old black man who was allegedly caught looting the Joe-Rae Tavern on the corner of Bergen Avenue. 

Excerpt from Silent No Longer: Voices from the 1967 Newark Race Riots by Kimberly Siegal


Benedict J. Fernandez

Benedict J. Fernandez


It was determined that the local and state police involved shot Rutledge in excess of forty times, including six bullets to the head.

Excerpt from Silent No Longer: Voices from the 1967 Newark Race Riots by Kimberly Siegal


Bettmann Corbis

Bettmann Corbis


But others were out on the street after curfew was called. Stray bullets were responsible for the death of two others in separate incidents when state police and National Guardsmen randomly opened fire on citizens. Such was the case of ten-year old Teddy Moss, who was killed while driving in a car with his father to White Castle, and Rebecca Brown, a twenty-nine year old woman and mother of four who was killed when a bullet passed through the wall of her apartment. 

Excerpt from The House Where Charlie Lived by Clint Miller Jr.


Bettmann/Corbis

Bettmann/Corbis


Eloise Spellman, Died 07/15/67 around 7:30pm of gunshot wounds from police at her home at 322 Hunterdon Avenue, Apt 10E. Mrs. Spellman, a 41 year old mother of eleven children whose husband had died several years previously, was a resident of the Hayes Homes Public Housing Project. Spellman was shot in the neck by gunfire as she peeked through her window. 

Excerpt from AssataShakur.org: Newark and Detroit Rebellions 1967


When she dropped, Mrs. Spellman's daughter caught her mother's body.


Harry Benson

Harry Benson


Even now, no one in the Spellman family can seem to agree. Was it Dee Dee at the window or Sharon? Or was it Kimberly? With 11 kids, it can be hard keep track.

Suffice it to say, one of the Spellman children was looking out the open window of the family's apartment in the Hayes Homes public housing high-rises about 6 o'clock in the evening 40 years ago today, July 15, 1967. And all Eloise Spellman was trying to do was make dinner.

She was a seamstress who worked in a local sweat shop, a sweet-natured woman who made her own clothes and cooked a mean stew. And when she saw one of her children too close to the window, too close to all the danger below, she scurried over to shoo the child away.But in leaning out to shut the window -- which opened away from the sill -- her upper torso was momentarily exposed.

From somewhere below, someone with a uniform and a gun who saw a head peeking out of that 10th-floor window, mistook a mother of 11 for a sniper, and opened fire. Who fired the fatal bullet remains unknown. What the bullet did, according to a later autopsy report, was pierce Eloise Spellman's neck and perfectly sever her carotid artery, the main vessel between the heart and the brain.

Excerpt from NJ.com: Eleven Young Survivors Were Also Riots' Victims by Brad Parks


Dennis Bird

Dennis Bird


Taking care of the Spellman children was no simple task.

While Brenda, Bruce and Sharon, all in their late teens, were left on their own, the rest of the children were quickly parceled out.

Richard, Dee Dee, Pam and Crystal were sent to live with their mother's cousin. Frank, Carl, Kimberly and Mike went to a foster care placement in New York.

The children had an odd kind of celebrity at first. Of the 26 people who died in the riots, Eloise Spellman was the quintessential innocent victim, a mother who took a bullet trying to protect one of her children. There was an outpouring of sympathy. The city paid for her funeral. Gerber sent boxes of baby food for little Mikey. Prudential made sure the children got something for Christmas, and their picture with Santa Claus appeared in the Newark Evening News.

Excerpt from NJ.com: Eleven Young Survivors Were Also Riots' Victims by Brad Parks


               Associated Press

               Associated Press


And then ... nothing.


Jim Hubbard

Jim Hubbard


Their mother was occasionally mentioned in articles about the riots -- after John W. Smith, the cab driver whose beating by police sparked the disorders, Eloise Spellman always made for good copy -- but the fate of her 11 orphans was not even a footnote.

The three oldest stayed on their own. The middle four bounced from one family member to the next. The four youngest were removed from one foster home after it was found to be abusive and were given other placements.

Through the years, the children fared like Newark itself: Some thrived, some struggled.

And five died -- all well before their time.

Excerpt from NJ.com: Eleven Young Survivors Were Also Riots' Victims by Brad Parks

 


New York Times Co.

New York Times Co.

Harry Benson

Harry Benson


"If my mother had not died the way she did, I'm sure they would all be alive today," said Brenda Spellman, the oldest. "The riot is what killed them. It killed them mentally long before it finally killed them physically."

Excerpt from NJ.com: Eleven Young Survivors Were Also Riots' Victims by Brad Parks


Eddie Adams/Associated Press

Eddie Adams/Associated Press


The youngest surviving Spellman child is Kimberly, 44, who lives in Queens, N.Y., and works as a hairdresser. She said she still struggles with her mother's death and has been diagnosed as manic depressive. Once, many years ago, she decided to learn more about her mother.

"It was like it was a secret," Kimberly said. "No one would tell me anything about her."

She eventually found a copy of her mother's autopsy report.

It described Eloise Spellman as a "well nourished colored female" who stood 5 foot 7 and weighed 170 pounds. It reported she died of blood loss from the gunshot wound that entered the left side of her neck and exited through her upper right arm.

It also noted she had an enlarged uterus. Unbeknownst to any of her children, and perhaps even to Eloise herself, there was going be a 12th Spellman child.

Eloise Spellman was two months pregnant.

Excerpt from NJ.com: Eleven Young Survivors Were Also Riots' Victims by Brad Parks


Other Victims Include:


 

 

Rebecca Brown, Died 07/15/67 at 6:30pm at her home on 293 Bergen Street. Mrs. Brown, a twenty-nine year old black woman, a native of Florida, and mother of four children, and nurse's aide at Orange Memorial Hospital, was killed when State Police and National Guardsmen fire a volley of shots into her apartment and surrounding buildings. She was shot in the abdomen trying to pull her two year old daughter, Delano, to safety. Police reports claim that a "sniper" may have shot her, although several eyewitness accounts place Guardsmen and State Police at the scene. According to Mrs. Brown's husband, who arrived from work after his wife was shot, police tried to prevent him from seeing her body.

 

Hattie Gainer, Died 07/15 around 8pm of gunshot wounds. Mrs. Gainer, a fifty-three year old African American woman lived at 302 Hunterdon Street. On Saturday evening, after shooting several rounds of fire into nearby Hayes Homes, where suspected snipers were holed up, state troopers moved toward Hunterdon street where further incidents of sniping were reported. They began shooting at resident's houses. Mrs. Gainer was struck in the chest by a bullet that came through the window of her second floor apartment. She died in the presence of three grandchildren, who ranged in age from three to seven years old. Her daughter recalled police saying; "We made a mistake. We're killing innocent people," as Mrs. Gainer lay on the floor of her house. Mrs. Gainer lived in the community for twenty years. 

Excerpt from AssataShakur.org: Newark and Detroit Rebellions 1967

 



 

 

 

 

Raymond Hawk, Died 07/15/67 at 10:06pm of gunshot wounds by police near 949 Freylinghuysen Avenue in the area of Dayton Street. Hawk, a twenty-four old black male, husband and father, lived at 143 Spruce Street. Hawk was by himself in the deserted street when police drove up firing shots down the alley at supposed looters. He was shot dead in the streets as he was trying to get to his car.

 

Elizabeth Artis, Died 07/16/67 at 4:35am at her home on 38 Prince St. A sixty-eight year old black woman, Ms. Artis, who had been suffering from a heart condition for four years became frightened by the sound of heavy gunfire in the neighborhood and suffered a fatal heart attack.

Excerpt from AssataShakur.org: Newark and Detroit Rebellions 1967


A photographer for Life Magazine captured the equally horrific image of troops shooting William Furr in the back as he walked down the street in the middle of the day carrying a six-pack of beer. 

Excerpt from The Music Has Gone Out of the Movement: Civil Rights and the Johnson Administration, 1965-1968 by David C. Carter 



William Furr, age 24, was “stranded in Newark. He came to the city to pick up a $50 unemployment check and look for a job to replace the one he lost at a bakery when it went out of business. When the buses back to Montclair...were stopped by the riot, Billy stayed on in Newark with friends.”While in Newark, Billy and his friends traveled down Avon Avenue to Mack Liquors, which had already been ransacked, and loaded up on cases of beer. Suddenly police cruisers pulled up in front of the store. Billy, afraid of being arrested, fled from the scene holding a six­pack of beer in his trembling hands.

Within an instant, a police officer shot him in the back and two of the pellets ricocheted striking twelve­ year old Joe Bass in the neck and thigh. Joe was rushed to the hospital, but Billy was left dying on Avon Avenue.

Excerpt from Silent No Longer: Voices from the 1967 Newark Race Riots by Kimberly Siegal



Police had to pry Billy's girlfriend off his cold body while she screamed uncontrollably, "God, don't let him die."

Excerpt from Silent No Longer: Voices from the 1967 Newark Race Riots by Kimberly Siegal


Associated Press

Associated Press


The day of Billy’s murder freelance photographer Bud Lee and Life reporter Dale Wittner were in Newark interviewing riot participants. Lee and Wittner stood in shock as Billy lay dying on the sidewalk. 

Lee recalls the event several years later:

"The whole time we were in Newark we never saw what you would call a violent black man...The only people I saw who were violent were the police. When we were out there on Avon Avenue with Billy, no one was scared...We were all drinking beer and talking...When the police came Billy panicked and ran...I was standing right over him when he died...I remember we asked if they were going to do anything for him and a cop mumbled ‘the guy’s better off dead."

Excerpt from Silent No Longer: Voices from the 1967 Newark Race Riots by Kimberly Siegal


 
 

LeRoi Jones to Amiri Baraka

Photograph of Amiri Baraka (Unknown Photographer)

Photograph of Amiri Baraka (Unknown Photographer)

 

 

In 1961, LeRoi Jones, a young writer in Greenwich Village, published a slim collection of brooding, introspective poems entitled Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note. “Each morning,” Jones wrote, “I go down to Gansevoort Street and stand on the docks./I stare out at the horizon/until it gets up and comes to embrace me./I make believe it is my father./This is known as genealogy.” But Jones’s poems soon took on a darker cast; his second collection, The Dead Lecturer (1964), revealed a deepening preoccupation with violence and self-loathing: “I am inside someone/who hates me,” Jones averred. 

The murder of Malcolm X in 1965 radicalized Jones. He jettisoned his Beat identity, left Greenwich Village for Harlem, and eventually changed his name to Amiri Baraka. Gone were the brooding poems of the early 1960s; black liberation was his new fixation. Jones’s 1966 book, Black Art, began with a poem called “SOS”: “Calling black people/Calling all black people, man woman child/Wherever you are, calling you, urgent, come in.”

From 1965 to 1974, Jones devoted himself to the black nationalist cause, mostly in Newark, New Jersey, but also on the national level with the short-lived Congress of Afrikan Peoples.

Excerpt from Dissent Magazine: A Turbulent Life: On Amiri Baraka by Scott Sherman


When riots shook the city in 1967, he was beaten by the police and jailed. For Baraka, the Newark “rebellion” was a heroic “cleansing fire.”

Excerpt from Dissent Magazine: A Turbulent Life: On Amiri Baraka by Scott Sherman


Negative from The New-Ark

Negative from The New-Ark


In 1968, famed Black Power poet, playwright, and filmmaker Amiri Baraka, who died on January 9, 2014 at the age of 79, made a documentary in and around Spirit House, a center of 1960s Black Nationalism in Newark, New Jersey. A copy of The New-Ark donated by the film’s cinematographer, James Hinton, was discovered in the Harvard Film Archive.

Excerpt from Bright Lights Film Journal: Recovering The New-Ark: Amiri Baraka's Lost Chronicle of Black Power in 1968 by Whitney Strub


new-ark-1.jpg

Negatives from The New-Ark


Baraka set out to document Black Power in Newark.

Excerpt from Bright Lights Film Journal: Recovering The New-Ark: Amiri Baraka's Lost Chronicle of Black Power in 1968 by Whitney Strub


 Negative from The New-Ark

 Negative from The New-Ark


On the word 'looter'


... it goes back as early as the seventeenth century, but it wasn’t until the beginning of the nineteenth century that “loot” was referred to in a more modern version of the word. In 1858, loot was defined as “something taken by force or with violence.” It follows from this definition that a looter is a person who uses violence to steal items and destroy property. By the mid­1900s the term looter was popularly used by the media to describe international rioters and survivors of natural disaster.

On February 12, 1950, The New York Times reports that in Calcutta, India the police “have not hesitated to shoot looters” involved in a riot that broke out due to Hindu­ Moslem troubles. In 1962 in Algeria, the newspapers reported that the Algerian Liberation Front will give the death sentence to any person caught in the act of looting. Looters were definitely portrayed in a negative light. It wasn’t until 1965, however, that The New York Times and other domestic papers began to use the word looter in a racial context to describe African Americans during a riot situation. 

Excerpt from Silent No Longer: Voices from the 1967 Newark Race Riots by Kimberly Siegal


From the files of The Star Ledger

From the files of The Star Ledger

From the files of The Star Ledger

From the files of The Star Ledger

From the files of The Star Ledger

From the files of The Star Ledger


 

In Chicago during the summer of 1965, for example, a race riot broke out in the heart of the city where a “civil rights rally swelled into a looting.”The Chicago riots were accompanied by the Watts Riots in Los Angeles the same day, where reporters also noted the presence of looters on the scene.By 1967 when racial unrest was occurring throughout the country, reports used the word looter as nonchalantly as they used the word police. 

Looters, would imply that these individuals were violent, reckless people who destroyed their city for no apparent reason.  

Excerpt from Silent No Longer: Voices from the 1967 Newark Race Riots by Kimberly Siegal

Edward Kitch/Associated Press 

Edward Kitch/Associated Press 


Formulating a definition for the word 'riot' by examining the works of historians and sociologists, leaves out the emotions and individual perspectives of those whose lives were forever transformed by the events of July 1967.

Excerpt from Silent No Longer: Voices from the 1967 Newark Race Riots by Kimberly Siegal


              New York Times Co. 

              New York Times Co. 

 

 

 

Asking individuals who were present in Newark during the riots to define this word opens up the discussion. Stanley Terrell, an African American who has lived in Newark his whole life, describes a riot as “an explosion of frustration; it’s something that comes about after a long period of time.”Fellow Newarker, Clement Moorman adds to Terrell’s explanation and describes a riot as “a festering of emotions, the denial of people’s privilege to live, and people didn’t have anywhere to vent but bingo!”

Excerpt from Silent No Longer: Voices from the 1967 Newark Race Riots by Kimberly Siegal



From the files of The Star Ledger

From the files of The Star Ledger

From the files of The Star Ledger

From the files of The Star Ledger


Meanwhile in Detroit


The long-simmering anger of black residents at an abusive, mostly white police force erupted here in the early morning hours of July 23, 1967, and lasted five days. The flash point was a raid by white police officers on an after-hours drinking and gambling club at the corner of 12th and Clairmount Streets, in a heavily black neighborhood. By the time the smoke cleared almost a week later, 683 buildings across the city had been damaged or destroyed and tanks had rolled through the streets.

Excerpt from The NY Times: 5 Days in 1967 Still Shake Detroit by Robyn Meredith


Enrico Natali

Enrico Natali


Whole blocks had gone up in flames, and the looting was so extensive that in some neighborhoods, alleys and sidewalks were lined with old sofas and armchairs that residents had cast out to make room for new furniture. Along 12th Street, smoldering piles of debris had replaced a bustling neighborhood of apartment houses, grocers, bars, a shoe store, a dry cleaner, a meat market and a bicycle shop.

Today, empty lots of thigh-high grass cover much of the area. Only one business owner at the epicenter of the riots, Carl Perry, still hangs on, operating a tiny photography studio next to a boarded-up storefront. 

Excerpt from The NY Times: 5 Days in 1967 Still Shake Detroit by Robyn Meredith

 


The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images


Mr. Perry's studio was here during the riots, too. Worried about looting, he moved all his expensive equipment into a drugstore he owned in the next block, where he served ice cream sodas to neighbors. Then a nearby grocery was torched, and the flames consumed his drugstore, destroying everything inside, including the expensive cameras and darkroom gear.

''It burned, it all burned,'' said Mr. Perry, who winced as he remembered the sight, even three decades later. ''I didn't have one cent of insurance.'' 

Mr. Perry, who is black, repaired store windows broken during the riots and kept his photography studio open. In the decades since, he has opened a small shop in the vacant storefront next door, and occasional customers buy soda, candy bars and potato chips there. But a grassy lot now occupies the site of his once-bustling drugstore.

Excerpt from The NY Times: 5 Days in 1967 Still Shake Detroit by Robyn Meredith 


Jim Hubbard

Jim Hubbard

Jim Hubbard

Jim Hubbard

Jim Hubbard

Jim Hubbard

Jim Hubbard

Jim Hubbard

Jim Hubbard

Jim Hubbard

Jim Hubbard

Jim Hubbard

Jim Hubbard

Jim Hubbard

Jim Hubbard

Jim Hubbard

Jim Hubbard

Jim Hubbard

Jim Hubbard

Jim Hubbard

Jim Hubbard

Jim Hubbard


A look back....


From the files of The Star Ledger

From the files of The Star Ledger


Quietly, matter-of-factly, he talked about what happened in the summer of 1967.

“Rebellion, I call it,” said the man, the poet Amiri Baraka, as he recalled the riots in Newark, which lasted nearly a week and left 26 people dead and more than 1,000 injured, among them Mr. Baraka himself.

Four and a half decades have passed, enough time for historians and urban policy experts to write millions of words about Newark’s industrial decline after World War II and the riots that became a symbol of urban unrest and that continue to cast a shadow over the city.

Before long, Mr. Baraka said, word spread that bricks and bottles were being thrown at the police station and that crowds were breaking windows in the neighborhood. “I had this brand-new Volkswagen bus,” he said, and he and several friends piled in. “We drove up Springfield Avenue. By the time we got to Belmont, it was raging.”

Excerpt from The NY Times: A Poet Looks Back at a Bloody Week in 1967 by James Barron


Portrait of Amiri Baraka (Unknown Photographer)

Portrait of Amiri Baraka (Unknown Photographer)


“Pretty soon, pop, pop, pop, pop,” he said. “Shots.”

Excerpt from The NY Times: A Poet Looks Back at a Bloody Week in 1967 by James Barron


 

 

 

He said that the police stopped the van. One of the officers was “a cop I had gone to high school with — Italian.”

“He hit me on the top of my head with his gun,” he said, “and then they started beating.” He said people watching from an apartment building took aim at the officers and threw things — including, he said, a refrigerator.

The police took me to Dominick Spina’s office,” he said, referring to the Newark police director at the time. “I fell on the floor. Spina says, ‘We got you,’ like some grade-B movie. I say, ‘Yes, but I’m not dead yet.’ That’s the level things were at.”

He was arrested on charges of carrying an illegal weapon and resisting arrest, and even before the trial began, he castigated the judge who was presiding and the all-white panel of potential jurors as “my oppressors.” He was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison, but in 1969 a judge reversed the conviction for lack of evidence.

Excerpt from The NY Times: A Poet Looks Back at a Bloody Week in 1967 by James Barron


Lee Balterman (Detroit)

Lee Balterman (Detroit)


“Newark, pre-1967, is a different place,” he said. “That 1967 thing was like a reckoning. I used to get held by the police for going to a poetry reading. The police would take the script out of my hand. That’s like living under some kind of fascism.”

Excerpt from The NY Times: A Poet Looks Back at a Bloody Week in 1967 by James Barron